Donne & W;t Comparative Essay

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How does the exploration of the connections between two texts from different times deepen our understanding of what is constant in human nature? The comparative study of the poetry of John Donne and Margaret Edson’s play, W;t, reveals changes in context inform what we value in human nature, specifically in regards to finitude, relationships and humanity. John Donne’s Holy Sonnets, ‘Death be not proud’, ‘This is my playes last scene’ and ‘If poysonous mineralls’ explore the fear of death and the need to belittle it, whereas ‘Hymne to God my God, in my Sicknesse’ (‘Hymne’) and ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’ (‘Valediction’) deal with the idealised, spiritual aspects of love and relationships. The need to undermine the power of death is reflected, though expressed differently, in both ‘Death be not proud’ and W;t. In ‘Death be not proud’, the personification of death, the logical argumentative structure and tone of the sonnet cohesively highlight the idea that death is not the absolute end, and can be transcended through a religious belief in salvation. In the concluding couplet, Donne affirms that after “one short sleepe” imposed upon us by death, we wake to the eternal life of salvation and in that life of the soul, “death shall be no more”. This subject of death and its aftermath is indicative of the societal values in Donne’s context, where death was an omnipresent entity and mortality rates were low as a result of limited scientific and medical knowledge. Subsequently, advancements in science and medicine in the context of W;t alter the perception of death, which is portrayed through Vivian’s constant use of gallows humour throughout the play as a theatrical device in confronting her fear of death. Contrary to Donne’s time, in which religion was very much central in one’s life, the 1990s mark a time where the lack of religious dimension and faith resulted

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